Shawnee falls short against defending state champion Botkins

CENTERVILLE – Chris McGuire liked a lot of what he saw from his Shawnee boys basketball team Sunday afternoon. But he didn’t see it for four quarters.

“I’m trying to continue the process of these guys understanding that you’ve got to bring it every night,” McGuire said. “And we’ve got to put together a full four quarters if we want to be the team that we think we can be.”

That team is one that wants to make the kind of tournament run it made last year to the Division III regional finals. That’s why the Braves wanted to be at Centerville High School for a 12:30 game against Botkins, the defending Division IV state champion with its eyes on a second title.

“They’re really good, they’re going to have a great year, they’re going to go really deep in the tournament,” McGuire said. “So we treated this as a tournament game.”

The Braves fell behind by eight at halftime, took the lead three times in the second half and eventually lost 61-57 for their first loss of the season. After leading 54-50, the Braves missed a couple 3-pointers and were outscored 11-3 to finish the game.

“For the most part we were able to attack and put pressure on them, but I’d like to have a few possessions back where we settled,” McGuire said of when the Braves went up 54-50. “We told them that against really good teams like Botkins, one breakdown or one possession, good teams make you pay. And that’s what they were able to do.”

Patrick Fultz scored 21 points and Zion Crowe had 20 to lead the Braves (5-1). Both were starters on last year’s team along with R.J. Griffin.

“We got a look at a team like some teams we can see deep in the tournament,” Fultz said. “Competing against teams that have had success like Botkins is only going to sharpen us. I know we would’ve loved to win the game, but in the end I think we benefitted regardless.”

Botkins (7-0) made five 3-pointers in the first quarter, then went inside in the second quarter to 6-foot-6 Jacob Pleiman for 11 of his 16 first-half points. McGuire adjusted his defense in the second half, and Pleiman finished with 18 points.

“We tried to do a better job of limiting his touches,” McGuire said. “Once he catches the ball inside, we have no answer, and most teams have no answer. The kids competed and responded to some of the changes we made in the second half. We played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half.”

Despite the improved play in the second half and stopping Pleiman inside, the Trojans were quick to respond to every run with good outside shooting, including four 3-pointers. Two senior guards who didn’t start for the Trojans last year, Jameson Meyer and Jaydon Wendel, combined for 14 second-half points and finished with 14 and 12, respectively.

“Credit to them, they hit a lot of shots, a lot of perimeter shots that I hadn’t necessarily seen them all hit,” McGuire said.

Still, the memory of the first half and not playing consistently well was impossible to forget. The glimpses of four strong quarters, as McGuire called it, were evident but not enough.

“Hopefully this is a sign of we’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “We can’t be content with we’re at. Getting close to them is not our goal.”

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